Western Washington University’s Katelyn Steen took third overall in the women’s race, and the WWU men’s team took fourth overall at the 41st Annual WWU Cross Country Classic on Saturday, Oct. 11, at Lake Padden.
Steen completed the women’s 6k course in 21 minutes, 20 seconds, a personal best on the course. She finished just behind Trinity Western University’s Fiona Bensen at 21:17, and TWU’s Sarah Inglis won by a large margin with a course-record time of 20:52.
Steen was pleased with her performance, a 40-second personal record at Lake Padden, and felt she had done well focusing on a few key things she has been working on.
“Today I was focusing on being relaxed in the first half of the race, and then really working on hills and working the downhills on the backside,” Steen said. “The biggest thing I was working on was having a fast last 800 meters, so that’s always my weakest part of the race. I’m always trying to work on that.”
On the men’s side, defending race champion WWU was led by Isaac Griffith’s 32:12 on the 10k course, a 10-second personal record from last year’s race. The men’s race was highlighted by nationally ranked No. 7 University of Alaska-Anchorage capturing six of the top 10 positions, led by race winner Dylan Anthony’s 31:02.
Griffith was narrowly edged by Seattle Pacific University’s Turner Wiley in the final stretch of the race, but lightheartedly said it was Wiley’s revenge.
“I out-kicked him at track conference last year so he got me back, but it was a solid race,” Griffith said.
Griffith worked on his breathing during the race, something that has been giving him trouble recently.
“My breathing has been a little bit off lately, but I think I fixed it this time,” he said. “It was kind of nice. Usually my breathing gives out before my legs and this time it was the opposite. So now I just have to work on legs.”
The nationally-ranked No. 25 men’s team has been working hard to get in shape for the postseason, and both Griffith and coach Pee Wee Halsell said that probably affected the team’s peformance.
“We haven’t been going easy into any races, so right now my legs felt a little heavy during the race,” Griffith said, “but I think once we get into postseason stuff like conference, regionals and nationals we’ll start feeling fresh.”
Said Halsell: “I think the hard work that we’ve been doing kind of held us back a little bit, so as far as that goes they’ve done a good job. They competed well. We’re not where we want to be when we get to the regional meet, which is about six weeks away, so we got a long time to go and we’ll be more ready later in the season.”
The women’s team has been working to improve altogether and keep pace with the All-American Steen.
“The team as itself, we got to close that gap,” Halsell said. “Katelyn ran a great race; a super, super race. To see her run that well and that competitive was great because some of those Trinity Western girls, there were three that beat her a few weeks ago and she beat one of them. The team ran a good solid race.”
As excited as she was with her big personal best, Steen seemed happier about the team’s performance than her own.
“I think the team did really awesome, and that’s a key thing because we’re stronger than we have been in past years,” she said. “It was exciting to see everyone finishing together and I know they all worked together throughout the race and that was the goal, so that’s the most exciting part about today.”
Filling out the top seven for the No. 23 WWU women were Taylor Guenther (22:44), Mikhaila Thornton (23:16), Haley O’Connor (23:18), Shawna Troupe (23:27), Sofia Marikis (23:27) and Brittany Grant (23:33). The team took eighth at the meet.
The men’s top seven consisted of Griffith, Nathan Richards (32:26), Jonathan Quimby (32:39), Juan Castillo (32:50), Sean Eustis (32:57), Tabor Reedy (33:03) and Max Romey (33:05).
Halsell was happy with the teams’ times, especially considering the difficulty of the course and how hard the teams had worked coming into the race.
“The last half of each race, that’s where working hard going into it makes it tough,” he said. “They did a good job and they fought through it even though it wasn’t where I would liked to have had them.”
After a rainy men’s race muddied up the course, the women’s racers had to focus on not slipping in the mud while managing the tough course.
“It was pretty slippery,” Steen said. “The hills on this course are always key because its the hilliest course that I’ve ran since I’ve been at Western. So (I focused on) working that and staying focused through the grass and muddy parts.”
WWU next hosts the WWU Invitational on Oct. 25, at Hovander Park in Ferndale.